Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fitness Training

No, Not the Horses

Too darn cold for my old bones to try riding right now.  I used to be out in the saddle in all kinds of weather and actually relished the days when the frozen ground was covered in a nice layer of snow.

Snow is great to ride in provided you know the basic lie of the ground you're riding on. It's not too great on woodland trails where the odd fallen tree branch might be covered and lying just where your horse will trip over it. But fields and riding arenas covered in snow are great.  In the old days I even used to practice my jumping skills in the snow. Shoe you horse with proper snowshoes or have him go barefoot, and you're set to go.

Well, that's the old days. Now with my hip still not fully stretched for the saddle and a body not at all fit, I'm just hanging out inside, waiting for Spring thaw.

Except when it comes to the barn chores. Unlike a motorcycle that can spend the icy season content and ignored in the garage, a horse needs care.  And winter care can often be even more important that warm weather care.

Horses need plenty of water even in the winter. Hoses freeze, so aside from lugging out my coil hose, I often find it easier to simply lug buckets of water to the trough.  5 gallons at a time?  About 35-40 pounds, depending on how full I make the bucket. Weightlifting. Good exercise.

And then The Boys need a lot of hay to keep their digestion going and their bodies warm.  Carting the bale from the shed to the barn across the lawn either by sled if there's hefty snow cover, or cart if the path is clear?  Works the arms, back, and legs.  Hay bale weight?  Probably 30- 40 pounds depending on the bale's size.

Of course, when I do go buy a load of hay and drive it home in my SUV, I'm the one who has to unload and stack it.  Today? twenty-two bales.  Repetitive weight training.

Then there's the feed. Once again, eleven bags of feed at 50 pounds apiece, unloaded from the truck into the storage cans inside the barn. There's a step up into the feed room and a step back down. Step up with the 50 pound burden, step down without. Stair step training and more weight work.

Add to that 6 bales of shavings into the barn aisle through the feed room. Not so heavy, maybe 25-30 pounds?  Step up into the feed room, down into the barn. Stair training both ways.

One more task to be done aside from the minimal effort the actual feeding takes, and that's cleaning stalls. Swinging the forkfuls of manure is akin to a lightweight kettleball session and some torso flexing exercises.

Pushing the filled wheelbarrow to the manure pile works the legs, arms and back.  Effort and energy output increases with the amount in the barrow and the depth of the snow traversed. I did shovel a path to the pile, so that added to the flexing exercises, but any path through the snowpack has its flaws, enough to add to the wheel resistance and increase the calorie burn of the work.

Time spent in my workout?  Who pays attention to the clock when there's work to be done?  Well, at least when there's horse work to be done.  Time stands still in the barn and its environs. Most of us work until the job is done.

Let's just say I had a fair amount of exercise today and all of it actually accomplished something.


  1. I'd say you had plenty of exercise today! You could give classes at your barn and the gym devotees would get a better workout there than at the gym!

  2. many years ago i read about some research to the effect that mucking out etc was very good for us in terms of calorie burn etc....certainly why we all have good biceps etc!

  3. We've got over a foot of snow on the ground and it's still coming down hard - lots of snow shoveling for me today, so I know what you mean.

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